A wife sought a divorce petition for her husband’s adultery. On her application for maintenance, a sum of andpound;90 per annum was to be secured for her life on interests of the husband under two wills.
Held: The court confirmed the report and directed that: ‘The payment of andpound;90 per annum, payable monthly, be secured to petitioner for her life on the share of residue taken by respondent under the two wills referred to in the said report, and that a deed of assignment of respondent’s interest on the terms mentioned in the said report be drawn as agreed between the parties, or settled by a conveyancing counsel of the Chancery Division of the court’.
The husband later claimed he was being put to needless expense in formally completing a security. The wife was content to continue to receive the monthly payments and did not press for the completion of any security. Thereafter, the parties agreed changes to the amount of maintenance payable by the husband, and eventually the wife executed a deed releasing the annuity and agreeing not to enforce the court order. Subsequently, the wife applied to set aside the release and for an order that the husband pay the annuity of andpound;90 per annum directed by the original order. The judge at first instance concluded that since the original order had not been perfected by the completion of the security the wife’s release was ineffective, and he ordered the husband to carry out the terms of the original order and to execute a deed of security. The husband appealed, contending that the wife was in a position to release the annuity as soon as the order was made. For the wife it was contended that until the security was perfected the wife had nothing to release.
Held: The husband’s appeal succeeded. An order for periodical payments to be secured on identified property, with provision for the security to be completed by the execution of a deed in appropriate form, has the effect of creating an immediate equitable charge over the property pending the completion of the security in accordance with the order.
Lindley LJ began by considering under what jurisdiction the original order was made. He concluded that it was made under section 32 of the Divorce and Matrimonial Causes Act 1857, in the following terms: ‘The court may, if it shall think fit, on any [decree of dissolution of marriage] order that the husband shall, to the satisfaction of the court secure to the wife such gross sum of money, or such annual sum of money for any term not exceeding her own life, as, having regard to her fortune (if any), to the ability of the husband, and to the conduct of the parties, it shall deem reasonable, and for that purpose may refer it to any one of the conveyancing counsel to the court of Chancery to settle and approve of a proper deed or instrument to be executed by all necessary parties; . . .’ He went on: ‘The moment this order was made the wife had an equitable charge on the property which could be enforced at once.’
Chitty LJ agreed: ‘The charge is given by the order, and the deed is only for the purpose of carrying out the order.’
(1897) 77 LT 474
England and Wales
Doubted – Mountney v Treharne CA 8-Aug-2002
In ancillary relief proceedings in a divorce, the husband had been ordered to transfer his interest in property to his wife. Before it was put into effect, he became insolvent. The wife and receiver competed for the interest to have been . .
Cited – Haines v Hill and Another CA 5-Dec-2007
On the divorce, the husband was ordered to transfer his share in the house to the wife. On his bankruptcy shortly after, the order was confirmed. After the wife sold the property at a profit, the trustee in bankruptcy applied to set the transfer . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.
Updated: 19 May 2022; Ref: scu.183329